The effort to find an alternative to gasoline for fueling cars moves forward every year. From individuals refining their own biodiesel to the big automakers, and even oil companies, there is huge momentum in alternative fuel research. The reasons are many: Gas engines emit greenhouse gases; the quest for oil involves us in international conflicts; and government reports say that we will hit peak oil in the next 30 years. Peak oil is the point where oil production begins to decline, when we've taken all the easily accessible oil from the ground, and it becomes increasingly expensive to get at what's left. China's growing economy and projected need for gasoline puts added pressure on the peak oil timeline.
There are lots of possible replacements for gasoline, but they all have drawbacks. I'm backing hydrogen. I've been following the development of fuel cell cars since GM launched its AUTOnomy concept car in 2002. As with any new technology, fuel cell cars have their critics. Here are my arguments for why fuel cells will power passenger cars in the future.
What do you think of hydrogen fuel cell cars?
It's important to keep in mind that a fuel cell car is just an electric car that happens to derive its electricity from a hydrogen-oxygen reaction. Any other source of electricity could work. The reason that automakers are focusing on hydrogen is because they find it the most practical solution for achieving the performance we've come to expect from our cars.
In an article from Automotive Engineering International, Volkswagen's Professor Jurgen Leohold sees hydrogen fuel cells as being an interim solution. He's looking at a long-term solution of better batteries. And it's true that if we had batteries that could run a car for 350 miles, then be recharged in five minutes, we wouldn't need to consider hydrogen fuel cells. There's a lot of current research going into new battery technology and supercapacitors, but that's a column for another time.
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